40 Is… More Than a Dress

40 is … packing for a trip and having your three-year-old assistant eager to pick out your birthday outfit. Her choice: a pink tie-dye blouse.

40 is … re-packing for a trip because your three-year-old assistant helped you pack and sneaking in your choice: an off-the-shoulder black dress.

40 black dress

40 is … digging in a drawer, a grave of old bras for a strapless bra and finding nursing bras instead.

40 is … wishing you had done LASIK surgery by 40 like you’d planned so you wouldn’t have to check your bag because of an oversized bottle of contact lens solution. (Kroger was out of the travel size.)

40 is … driving to a surprise dinner with your husband the night before your big trip, passing by your “dream home” and wondering if the dream is where you are right now.

40 is … seeing a deer on the side of the road and remembering the deer your mom hit with the family station wagon as a child. And being relieved this deer didn’t leave you dead in a ditch at 40.

40 is … feeling the moments of life pass you by, the people you love flash before you and wishing you could reach out to them and hold them and make life stand still.

40 is … having a lavender-rimmed cocktail with your husband, drinking in the memories of your honeymoon and making plans to travel more… and realizing you have four college tuition bills yet to fulfill.

40 is … waking up to the chocolate your husband placed with love on your nightstand and deciding chocolate is the breakfast of champions — even if you’re only watching the 2018 Olympics.

40 is … taking a selfie in front of the 40/40 club sign at the airport and not recognizing yourself. DELETE it! What’s to hide? Publish!

40 airport selfie

40 is … meeting new traveling friends at the airport who share a passion for Pinot… and hearing from old friends who knew you when you drank “Pinot Light” in a can.

40 is … watching the movie Goodbye Christopher Robin on a plane and crying like a baby because it reminds you of your babies who you just left thousands of miles away.

40 is … arriving in California and finding out your luggage — including your special birthday dress — didn’t make it to celebrate with you.

40 flowers

40 is … finding 40 flowers in your hotel room from your sister, whose unexpected gift reminds you every flower just like every year is unique and beautiful.

40 is … racing to a store to find a replacement dress 30 minutes before your birthday dinner reservation… and having a ball sprinting to dinner like Cinderella in a polka-dot dress and magenta heels, 5 minutes to spare.

40 is … eating like a newborn into the night, tasting a 1978 Zinfandel and feeling better with age.

40 crop dots and 1978 zin

40 is … just wanting to sleep in, but getting woken up in the middle of the night because your luggage arrived… feeling cross and then thankful it’s not a sick, hungry or scared child. It’s just your dress, late to the party but ready for what’s to come.

40 is … celebrating again another night in your REAL birthday dress because you don’t want the party to end.

40 is … hearing from your old high school friends, ready and willing to drive two hours in holiday traffic with four-month-old twins just to see you before you leave… snuggling with Dylan, your friend’s baby, because you’re probably not going to have another newborn of your own to snuggle with.

40 Dylan

40 is … bringing home your 40 flowers and the vase because you can’t bear to leave your sister behind. She needs to be with you for the rest of the ride, plane and all.

40 is … looking in the mirror and noticing the lines of life, the laughs, the thoughts, the worries, the years.

40 is … considering what life would be without those lines… forgoing the ability to erase them, because those lines, those memories, those years are part of you.

40 is … learning to look past the imperfections, the glitches, the lines of life … and beginning to see every moment, every dress that doesn’t arrive on time, as a gift.



  1. Bev Voris

    Love it, Em!! Love you more, but your memories moved me to tears on several occasions. The years fly by too fast! One minute you are overwhelmed and the next minute you are looking behind you wishing with all your might for just another day with those overwhelming moments but smiling because you made it through! Life is a wonderful and beautiful journey, and I love that you’ve chosen to share yours in this creative way! Hugs sweetie!

    1. emilypmiller

      Your words mean the world to me, Aunt Bev! I feel so blessed to have had such a supportive group of family and friends to guide me through this life. Writing about it all is what helps me hold on to all those beautiful memories with those I love… much like your paintings! Hugs back!

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